Just one pilot's attempt at taking an interesting picture every trip, often with a story to go with it. Come along for the ride.

For more recent posts, go to my site www.kentwien.com

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wicked Cool Reader #2 - Nick de Jonge

I got an email from a reader, Nick who is going through training at KLM.  He's pretty excited to get a chance to fly for the world's oldest airline and you can see why when you look at the pictures he's taken.  His website has some amazing stuff.  Way better than what I'm doing.  I can't imagine the kind of pictures he'll be taking at KLM someday (discreetly, Nick.  I don't want to see you get fired in your first year!)

Monday, October 22, 2007

LAX three day (the all nighter)

One of the reasons I'm not interested in bidding domestic is the LAX all nighter that represents about half of our domestic flying out of Boston on the 757/767.

But when you're on reserve, anything can happen and so I managed to get one of these trips. I don't mind too much since I'm more of a night person anyway. But they really can kick your butt.

We departed on Thursday night at 5 p.m. and arrived in LA 5 1/2 hours later. The Captain (Emmitt) was someone I had flown with 10 years earlier on the MD-80, and I hadn't seen much of him since. So it was nice to catch up. We had a bit of that low level fog that seems to be plaguing us in Boston lately. The RVR (runway visual range or the measured visibility) was 1000 feet, so that was well above our 600 foot minimums for this runway. I took this picture to give you an idea of the visibility while we were holding in position to wait for enough spacing behind a previously departed USAirways flight. Each runway light on the side of the runway is 200 feet apart. The centerline lights are 50 feet apart. So you can see how much visibility we had just before going. We were in the clouds completely at 100 feet.

After an uneventful takeoff, we chased the sunset across the country. We noticed a big cell up ahead that looked like a cruise ship. I snapped a few pictures and some HD video that I hope to put up at some point of the sunset and the lightning that we saw in the distance. We enjoyed the light show and easily worked our way north of this build up.

Doesn't this cloud look like a cruise ship?Chasing the sunset

After we arrived in LAX at around 9 p.m., Emmitt went to stay with his brother and I went to the hotel. I was looking forward to getting some things done all day the next day in LA.

The highlight of the layover for me was catching a great movie. I have been out of the loop as to what was playing lately and so I went to the Quicktime Movie Trailer Page and checked out what was playing. I decided to see the matinee of Across the Universe. Wow. What a movie. They took about 20 Beatles songs and built a great story around them set in the '60's. If you have the chance, go see it. The songs are sung by the cast in ways that really bring some freshness to the usual Beatles songs everyone already know. I've told my wife that she has to see this movie immediately. That was 3 days ago. She still hasn't been able to get out of the house to see it.

There were no good photo opportunities on the way home since we left at 11 at night LA time and arrived at 7:30 in the morning in Boston. I was wide awake for the trip since I slept pretty well at the hotel, but by the time I got home I was walking around in a fog - even after a nap. I'm more used to being exhausted in Europe but feeling great after I get home, so this is one of the differences I noted between flying west versus east.

I just got back from a surprise retirement party today for our Boston Chief Pilot Bill Bronson. Bill has already gone down as the best chief we've ever had and everyone in Boston will really miss him. Massport, which runs the Logan airport presented Bill with a taxiway light which I think was the coolest gift a pilot could ever get. Bill was overwhelmed with the outpouring of thanks from everyone who was there. Thanks for the past 10 years, Bill!

Picture taken with the iPhone.  Bill has seen the light!  Have a great retirement CA Bronson.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Thanks Ruthann...

That's more like it.
Originally uploaded by Fly For Fun
Ruthann thought she could come up with a more realistic avatar for my blog and website. I think she has, what do you think?

Thanks Ruthann. It's perfect.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Corporate pilot buddy Bob stops by for a visit

My good friend Bob swung by the area in his brand new Challenger 300 jet. Well, not exactly HIS jet, as he was flying it for the fractional jet charter company he works for. I have a number of friends who fly for the big two operators, Flex Jet and Net Jets, and they all seem to be pretty happy there.

Bob and I go back 15 years when we flew Twin Otters together out of Long Island. We hauled gamblers down to Atlantic City and brought them back home, usually $10,000 lighter in the wallet. We could almost tell how much they lost when computing the weight and balance. It was especially hard for us to watch all those throwing money away when Bob and I made $1000 and $1600 a month respectively. Ahh, well. They were still good times. Especially when I was able to fly with Bob, who was the best co-pilot to fly with. The kind of guy who brings donuts to the company meetings, is really enthusiastic and who flies exceptionally well.

So it was fun to catch up with him while he showed me the really slick features in the new Challenger 300. He pointed out the extra large LCD screens, the lack of any overhead switches and the plush interior. His co-pilot was busy doing Jepps revisions in the cabin. The airplane holds around 15 books and the pilots are expected to keep them up to date during their sit time. It looked like a daunting task.

With all of this paper on board, I found it funny that Canadair didn't include a clip on the yoke to hold your approach plate. Some guys have taken to buying a clip that has sticky tape on one side from Staples to hold the charts. Proof that the designers aren't pilots in every case.

I'll leave you with some pictures of this really sexy machine. But do note the revisions and yoke clip:

Sunday, October 14, 2007

2nd Paris trip - The Rugby World Cup

As I was in the bus going to the employee parking lot on my way home from the previous trip, crew schedule let me know that I would be going back to Paris the next day. Fine with me. I knew I was paying back some karma from the month of September when they hardly needed me.

This time the Captain was yet another Mark T. and the FB was one of my favorite guys, Mike H. The captain was on reserve from NY since we must have been out of pilots in Boston. He had previously been based in Boston and I had flown with him a few times, as I recall.

We agreed to meet up for dinner later that night. I met one of the flight attendants who would be coming to dinner with us in the lobby of the hotel in the early afternoon. We agreed to tour around together. Nancy helped me find a great shirt that my daughter needed for her school's travel theme day on Monday. We stopped in The Mazet pub (the same pub seen in this video) where we had a beer. Both on the way in and on the way out, Nancy caught the eye of two of the more wild English rugby fans. They gave her a very warm welcome, in fact.

We continued to walk around the 'Latin Quarter' checking out the shops (got the shirt!) and sights. It never fails in Paris that you'll find a couple making out in the middle of the street, and this trip was no exception. Of course I had to get a picture to share with you...

The copilot who was supposed to have flown this trip was 'reassigned' to one of the early morning two day Caribbean trips. He had reservations at Le Volant where we've eaten before and he let Mike know that we could go in his place. It turned out to be a great thing, since most everything in Paris was full on the night of the huge Rugby match between France and England. We enjoyed our seats, even though the TV was behind a huge pillar from where we were sitting. I guess this is good as any place to sit the americans who don't actually know anything about rugby. We enjoyed the atmosphere, though.

Le Volant had people spilling out into the street as they had a TV outside for everyone to watch. It was a popular place that night. But we were ready to beat the rush for the metro to get back to the hotel, so we left before the end of the game.

We passed a few other pubs on the way back to our hotel that were equally full.

By the time we arrived at the hotel we found out that #2 ranked France lost to #6 ranked England in what was quite an exciting upset. Of course, we were pulling for France. Hey, when in France, route for the French team. If we had been in Manchester, well, we would have certainly pulled for England. But if I somehow find myself in Dallas, well, the same can't be said.

The only good picture from the flight home was of this dessert that Nancy brought to the cockpit:

Crew meal dessert

Paris 3 day - Going in circles.

I wasn't too disappointed to get a Paris trip call for the next day. It's hard to complain about having to go to work when it involves a Paris or even a Manchester trip. I tend to be a night person, so the evening departures work out better for me than the 5 a.m. trip to the Caribbean.

The Captain was again Mark, and Russ was the FB. I was happy to be flying as the FO today. Before I left, I texted a friend of mine in France who is just finishing up his training with the French Air Force. I usually let him know when I am in Paris, just in case he can make it out. He's usually many hours away by train, but he had the time off this time so he agreed to meet up with me. I first met Nicolas 6 years ago when he came to stay with our neighbor with hopes of improving his english. He wanted to apply for an ab initio Air France pilot position and part of that interview involved speaking and understanding english. Linda and I agreed to host him for two weeks at first, but we enjoyed having him so much that he ended up staying for most of that summer and the next. He didn't get the Air France job, but after the second summer with us, he applied with the French Air Force and was accepted. He's currently flying the Alpha Jet and really enjoying himself.

Mark gave me the leg for the flight over, but as we approached Paris it became apparent that neither of us would be making the landing this morning. The ceilings were around 100 feet and the visibility was between 150 and 600 meters. The autopilot can perform a Cat III Autoland down to 75 meters, so that is what we set up for. Landing turned out to be the easy part, it was the taxiing in that proved more difficult. We could only see about 300 feet in front of us, so we proceeded with caution.

I was only able to get in a 45 minute nap before I had to get back up. I rolled out of bed and walked deliriously down to the train station to meet up with Nicolas. We had lunch at a Creperie close to our hotel and then visited for the next 5 hours until he had to go back to his home in Nantes. We talked about all sorts of flying stories and he happened to ask me about flying a holding pattern in the Boeing. "It's SO much easier with the FMS, Nicolas." He lamented about holding at night with charts that were hard to read in the dimly lit cockpit. But it was funny we should talk about holding patterns...

I slept for a big portion of the evening after Nicolas left. I had sprung for the $30 internet fee which I almost never do, but I wanted to share some stuff with Nico. So after taking another 2 hour nap, I was up surfing away. But I couldn't hold out much longer and I was soon sleeping the night away. If you ever really want to get some good sleep before departing the next day on one of these trips, try the no nap after arriving in the morning method. It's a killer, but you WILL sleep well that night.

Captain Mark had brought his wife and they had a good time in Paris. He insisted the next day that I fly the landing back in Boston, which was very generous. But when we arrived in Boston, the weather was approaching Cat III minimums, so we set up for it instead. So we would be flying two legs in three days and no one would be hand flying a landing. Typically you might see one Cat III autoland in a year, so this was a little unusual.

But before we landed, almost as if to pay homage to Nicolas, we were given a hold for one turn just east of Boston. Unlike holding when you're getting your flight ratings, Boeing makes this process pretty simple. Just type in the name of the fix, the inbound radial, the length of the leg and you're set. No need to decide if the entry is a direct, parallel or teardrop, it does it for you. Here's an example of the FMS page and the resulting drawing shown on the map page.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Back to work...

When you are on international reserve, the company can potentially call you at any moment for a trip. However, you're usually notified around noon the day before the trip. For domestic reserves, you need at least an 8 hour period of designated rest in 24 hours. When they run out of reserve coverage from the domestic pilots, they will give the international pilots this designated rest period just in case a domestic trip comes up.

Last night I was given a rest period that ended at 5 a.m., meaning that they couldn't call me until 5. just as my clock read 5 a.m., my phone rang this morning and I knew this couldn't be good news. They had a trip for me that signed in at 7 a.m. I could make that, I figured, but having not flown for the past month, it took a bit of time to convert my suitcase from vacation mode to work mode. I found myself taping my i.d. back together after I broke it while trying to install a carseat in an airplane during our trip home 2 days earlier. I dusted off my jacket that we never wear during the summer months and changed out the manuals in my kitbag. Finally I took a look at the trip on the computer. Wow, a 'ferry flight' down to Miami with a deadhead back home. How easy. No passengers at all going down and just ride home and catch up on some video on the iPhone. Deadhead trips have become much easier ever since the invention of the video iPod or iPhone.

I hadn't flown with this captain, Steve, yet. He's on the domestic side and I probably fly 3 domestic trips a year or so. Steve also is a fellow mac user who's very involved in video editing, so we had plenty to talk about.

In fact, so much so that I really didn't get any pictures at all during the quick flight to Miami. I hope to make it up on the next trip. One interesting thing about the flight was our very light airplane resulted in an approach speed of 110 knots or 126 mph. That's about as slow as I've seen.

The flight home saw a rarity. We raced to our gate expecting to have a middle seat in the back or even a cramped cockpit jumpseat, but they had two seats available in first class for us. It's been a long time since we've seen that happen. After saying hello to the Boston international crew flying the plane home (two friends) we sat back and enjoyed the flight home. Total time away from home: 11 hours. Not too bad.

I'm on reserve for the next 6 days, so I'm sure something else will pop up. I suspect I'll be flying a lot more than last month. Hopefully I'll have enough time off to put the final touches on the swing set project!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Danger, elderly people in Ireland!

We've been to Ireland to visit Linda's friends and family seven of the past ten years. But this was the first time we've been able to bring my mom along. She's been a good sport and she even posed with this unusual sign along the road...

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Exeter, New Hampshire, United States
Grew up in Alaska, went to high school and college in Washington State. Commercial pilot since 1990.

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